Ahmedabad: The three young leaders of the three independent social movements in Gujarat that rocked the boat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have continued to challenge the much-trumpeted “Gujarat model” of development even after the elections to the state elections.
Dalit rights activist Jignesh Mevani, Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor (both elected the state assembly for the first time) and Hardik Patel, the face of the pro-quota agitation by Patidar youth, have begun sabre-rattling, not giving any breathing time to the newly installed Vijay Rupani government.
Mevani, elected from the Vadgam constituency in Banaskantha district as an independent candidate, gheraoed the Gomtipur police station in the heart of Ahmedabad city demanding action against illegal liquor dens that, he alleged, were flourishing in localities where the labour class are in large numbers, in connivance with the police and bootleggers.
Thousands joined Mevani, forcing the police to promise action within 48 hours. Later, the Dalit leader visited a slum at Vadaj, barely 1km from the Harijan Ashram at Sabarmati founded by Mahatma Gandhi, to “expose” a similar illicit liquor trade flourishing there.
Mevani then led a delegation to the Ahmedabad police commissioner and submitted a memorandum demanding that the illicit liquor dens at Gomtipur, Vadaj and other localities be closed within 24 hours.
Thakor, who won the Radhanpur seat on a Congress ticket, has said he will join hands with Mevani if the police did not act on the liquor dens. Thakor, who had originally started an agitation against liquor dens before the state elections, also said similar movements will be launched in other cities and towns of Gujarat.
Thakor also threatened the state government over stopping the supply of water from the Narmada canal to farmers in Patan district till at least 20 January. He said the farmers required irrigation facilities at this stage, without which they would suffer huge losses. If the government stops irrigation water supply at this stage under the pretext of canal maintenance, he will launch an agitation at the ministerial bungalow complex in Gandhinagar. “We will go with the necessary tools to cut the water supply to the ministerial bungalows and gherao the chief minister,” he said.
Meanwhile, Patel, who is running the risk of being jailed again under cases of sedition and other charges pending against him since before the elections, has already threatened to resume his stir demanding reservation for Patidar youths in government jobs and educational institutions. Patel and his Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) are holding a “chintan shibir” in Botad in the Saurashtra region to analyse why the PAAS, which supported the Congress in the polls, was unable to dethrone the BJP.
The Rupani government has directed the police to take necessary steps to prevent Patel and the PAAS from resuming their agitation.
Nachiketa Desai is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad and tweets at @nachiketadesai. The views expressed are his own.